Saturday, June 6, 2009

Illegal kennels

Frankly, I cannot understand all the fuss being made around the 'Slumdog' kids. When their houses get razed, it makes front page news. Even otherwise sensible Indians behave as though opposing the razing is something every right thinking Indian should do. When you point out that the houses are illegal constructions which unless removed will prevent the monsoon waters from draining out, they make you feel like you are some well fed capitalist far removed from the problems of the masses.
But nothing can take away from the fact that an illegal construction is an illegal construction regardless of who occupies it, and razing them is not the wrong thing to do. A big deal is made of the fact that those houses were razed twice in six weeks - as though the municipal corporation has some particular vendetta against those two kids and their families. Do people not question why the houses came up again after the first razing, despite the fact that alternate accommodation was provided for the people?
The issue is not the 'Slumdog' kids - the issue is scarcity of affordable housing in the city of Bombay. But the very people who seem most opposed to having a solution found to that problem are the 'slumdogs'. Of the flats handed out under the slum rehabilitation scheme formulated after a prolonged protest led by an actress turned Rayja Sabha MP, more than 50% have already changed hands, and the allottees gone back to living in the slums they grew up in.
That is the core issue that needs to be tackled - unfortunately it is the sensationalism of a child actor's hens being killed that tugs the emotional heartstrings.

And why the kids should have flats awarded to them by MMRDA I fail to understand. By acting in a commercial movie made by a Westerner for a Western audience, have they really contributed to the country in any way? Sure, Danny Boyle can provide them all the flats he wants to - perhaps he can also justify it as a tax deductible expense - but providing free housing to people who unwittingly contribute to reinforcing negative stereotypes about the country is just not on. At least, I think not.

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